A man with huge experience, caddie Billy Foster gives 15 tips he's picked up over the years.
Billy Foster – 15 Tips From The Tour
Billy Foster has caddied for some of the world’s best players, including Seve Ballesteros, Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia and now Matt Fitzpatrick. Here, he shares some of the insight he’s built up over nearly 40 years on tour…
Work your strategy back from the pin
You have to consider where the pin position is before you hit your tee shot. There’s no point hitting it down the right just because there’s more room there if from that side you can’t get anywhere near the flag with the second shot. If the pin is back right, you need to be hitting it down the left side of the fairway so you can leave yourself a better angle.
All fairway bunkers are not the same
The safe thing to do is, of course, lay back and take them all out of play, but there might be certain holes where you want to be aggressive because it is quite open beyond them. Always check the depths of the bunkers in the landing zones and make a note, saying: “If I go in there I’m chipping out” or “that one’s a splash bunker and I can get it on the green easily.”
Know where you can’t afford to miss
Tom Watson always said you win golf tournaments by limiting your mistakes. He won a lot of tournaments!
Do you know how far you hit a 7-iron?
When I was caddying for Lee Westwood, his 7-iron went 175 yards. Not 170-175, or 175-180, but 175. You need to know to the yard how far you hit each club.
Be aware of your landing spot
If you’ve got 180 yards in, but you then need to be eight yards short to give yourself the best putt, that changes the club you have to hit. Likewise on a firm green your landing spot is not 180, it’s 165. It’s not about the total number, it’s about your landing spot.
Don’t get wrapped up in technique before your round
Do not go to the course with too many swing thoughts in your head because you will not play good golf. Hit a few shots, shape shots and get a feel for the swing before you play, but don’t get too technical.
Work on your wedge game
You may never be a Dustin Johnson or a Brooks Koepka, hitting it out of sight, but remember Luke Donald and Zach Johnson? One got to World No.1 and the other won a Green Jacket and a Claret Jug. Why? Because their wedge play was outstanding. Spend more time working on your wedge play than anything else.
Get your wedge distances dialled in
For every single one of Matt Fitzpatrick’s wedges, he has a shoulder to shoulder swing, a chest to chest swing and a chest to shoulder swing – each of them delivers a specific yardage. This enables him to become more consistent and, because the yardages overlap, he can then choose the shot he wants to play to suit the conditions, whether that’s a low shot that runs or a high one that stops.
All pros feel pressure
However, the top guys have their gameplan and they don’t change their mind on the spur of the moment. If you have a gameplan, you are not going to be affected as much by the emotion of the situation. Sometimes you just need to take an extra 30 seconds to slow down the thought process. Take an extra breath and stick to your routine.
Know where the uphill putts are
Nick Faldo once sent me out on a Sunday morning asking me to find where all the uphill putts were to each pin. His theory was that he would often ignore the flag and hit into the area that would leave him the easiest putt, which is always a straight uphill one. By doing that he’d be eliminating bogeys and double-bogeys.
Certain holes, yes, you can be aggressive, but on the hard pins you have to be disciplined to keep a double off the card. Play away from the flag and you still might make a birdie by holing a more straightforward 20-foot putt.
Attitude and mental strength are huge parts of the game
Bernhard Langer, Ian Poulter and Graeme McDowell might not be the best ball-strikers to play the game, but as competitors, there have been few better. What they all have in common is great attitude, they are mentally strong, they plot the course they are playing meticulously and they have great short games.
When you next practise chipping, avoid too much loft
The great champions – Ballesteros, Norman and Langer in particular – used different clubs for chipping. Don’t always try and land it close to the flag. Try and chip with a 7-iron, 8-iron, 9-iron or pitching wedge.
Never hit a shot you are not 100% committed to
If there is any doubt, it will find you.
Use simple putting drills
Any time Tiger Woods plays a round, he throws down five balls, puts tee pegs in the ground to make a tight gate and putts one-handed through that gate. That’s to get it in the sweetspot every time – he does that every single day of his life.
Let your attitude dictate your golf game and not your golf game dictate your attitude
You’ve got to have a strong mental attitude and keep fighting, even if you make a double or a triple.
For more tips from the tour do not forget to follow Golf Monthly on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.